In very sad news for a great young man, the Marquette Golden Eagles basketball team, and the Marquette fan base, forward Ike Eke’s basketball career is over.
On Friday, August 2nd, the university released a statement saying that Ike has been medically incapacitated to participate in basketball at the collegiate level due to back injuries.
Eke has undergone two surgeries on his back, in January 2018 and January 2019, ruling him out of participation during his medical redshirt year and again this past season, where he used his traditional redshirt in order to maintain 4 years of eligibility.
It’s a harsh blow to a young man who had contributed off the court in so many positive ways to the program, but could never find a way to contribute on the court. Ike’s basketball career, looked at purely through the lens of “how well do you play this game?” is a story of what-ifs and potential. He set the Marquette vertical leap record back in the summer of 2018 and appeared to be on track to contribute in 2018-19. When healthy, he was constantly in the weight room and the gym. Seen as something of a project player coming out of the University of Detroit High School, we saw glimpses of a monster athlete with a blossoming basketball talent. Coach Wojo would not have brought him onto the team without some idea of what Ike could have panned out to be on the court.
Still, the story of Ike Eke and his contributions to the team and school cannot purely be measured by his inability to log a minute on the hardwood. Ike has been a tremendous representative of Marquette University on the bench, in campus community, and in the world at large. Earlier this year, Ike donated a basketball court to Enugu, Nigeria, in his native country, using money had been able to save up during his time in the United States. Ike is pursuing a social welfare and justice degree and has been active in a variety of campus organizations outside of the basketball team.
We cannot forget his role on the bench as a tremendous teammate and supporter of his fellow athletes. One of the ever-present bench mob, even when it was clear that his back was not cooperating with him. The heart and soul of the team, even if he couldn’t be the one making the play on the court.
In the face of such awful news, there is still some hope to be found. Ike will continue to be part of the Marquette basketball family and continue with his studies at the university. I cannot imagine the team being happier that he is finding a way to stay with them, even if the circumstances have dictated that he no longer can play basketball with them. And, thankfully, Ike’s health will not be compromised simply to play a sport for 4 years. In the grand scheme of things, that must be taken into consideration.
I suppose I should mention that this does presumably free up another scholarship for the team to use for the 2020 class (and/or potential transfers?) and it answers a few questions about how the big man rotation will look in the 2019-2020 season. But honestly, if that’s the first thing that I focus on when hearing this news, I’d be doing this incredible young man a great disservice.
Thank you, Ike. I’m glad you found Marquette as amazing as we all did, and I’m happy that you’re sticking around to be a part of this team.